Could this year be the first in a while that we see two new teams in the NBA Finals? Of course the odds are what they are, and chances are against the Raptors or the Warriors playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Warriors have been in the finals for the past five years, and for the first four of those years, their opponent was LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With LeBron going to the Lakers last summer, it opened up the Eastern Conference for the Toronto Raptors to get to the finals, and win the franchise’s first championship. So what about these two teams making the chances slim for them to return to the finals.
The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard before last season, running the risk of his expiring contract. The trade was worth it, as the Raptors were crowned NBA champions in June. Leonard went out west to the Clippers in free agency this summer, and now the Raptors are left without their finals MVP. The team is still solid. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol while in the twilight of their careers, are still good players. Also, Pascal Siakam broke on to the scene last year as one of the brightest young stars in the league. Without Kawhi the Raptors won’t be the same. With the Sixers getting even better, and the Bucks losing Malcolm Brogdon, but not taking too big of a step back, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors back in the finals for a second straight year.
The dynasty of the Golden State Warriors seems like it’s on the decline. Two time finals MVP Kevin Durant left the bay in free agency to join the Brooklyn Nets, but it’s not all a loss for the Warriors. D’Angelo Russell was moved from Brooklyn to Golden State in a sign and trade that also involved Durant. D’Angelo was an all-star last year, and is only 23 years old, so he can keep getting better. With Stephen Curry still playing at a superstar level, Draymond Green being a perfect hustle guy and defender, and D’Angelo Russell joining the team, there’s no doubt that the Warriors are still gonna be good. However, I don’t think they have what it takes to take down the star studded teams that were just formed out west, such as the Clippers, Lakers, and Rockets. If the Warriors get back to the finals, it won’t be a huge shock, but I don’t see them defeating any of those three teams in a playoff series.
If the two teams from last year don’t make the finals, then who will. Without the starpower of Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, it’s hard to see the Raptors beating other contenders in the East such as the 76ers, Bucks, Pacers, and Celtics. The Warriors, while still very talented just might not have enough to make it past powerhouses like the Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, and maybe even the Nuggets. We have a clean slate in the NBA, and there is more disagreement on the teams that will make the finals than there has been in the past. While there is a lot of talk about several teams in each conference, it’s rare to see the Raptors, or Warriors at the top of their respective lists. It builds a competitive atmosphere, where there are more teams fighting for a conference title than the past several years. We could see a completely new matchup in the finals this year. A matchup that could possibly take the league in to a different direction for the future